You don’t have to don a pair of skis to get out into snowy climes on your winter getaway. So long as you have warm clothes, there are lots of ways to enjoy the snow, ice and frost. From cultural city breaks to trips inside a glacier, from watching the Northern Lights to sipping glühwein in a toasty café, we’ve got five spine-tingling suggestions for your next winter break.
WATCH THE NORTHERN LIGHTS FROM YOUR OWN GLASS IGLOO
After a day husky sledding or reindeer sleighing, return to the village to tuck up inside your own glass igloo and experience the spectacular Aurora Borealis and the sparkling of the bright starry sky from the comfort of your own bed. The domed glass roofs of all the cabins have cleverly-heated windows, which will give you the clearest view of the night sky.
This year, the Resort is taking luxury stargazing one step further with the introduction of the Kelo-Glass Igloo, extensive cabins that combine the comfort of traditional log cabins and the sensational sky views of the domed glass igloo. Sleeping up to six and featuring a private sauna, fireplace, kitchenette and bedroom with a glass roof, they’re made from Lapland’s unique kelo pinewood. And you’re guaranteed a good night’s sleep afterwards because all the snow really muffles sound.
SPEND A NIGHT IN THIS YEAR’S SWEDISH ICEHOTEL
Founded in 1989, the Jukkasjärvi Icehotel is art and accommodation rolled into one. A brand new hotel is created every year, with all the walls, floors and ceilings made of natural ice and snow from one of Europe’s last wild rivers, the river Torne. Designers from all over the world vie to become part of the creative team that puts the hotel together. One night is enough for most people, with guests opting to stay in an ordinary ‘warm hotel’ for the rest of their trip.
Before your night under ice, you go through a ‘survival course,’ checking you are dressed appropriately and learning how to make the bed with the Arctic sleeping bags. These bags are designed to keep you warm in temperatures as low as -25C and, as the temperature inside the hotel never drops below -5C, they are more than enough to keep you warm. There are no doors to the suites or snow and ice rooms, and so in the morning a member of staff will draw the curtain that covers the doorway and wake you up with a hot lingonberry juice in bed – bliss! Before you check out – or move into the warm hotel accommodation – you’re given a diploma stating the date and temperature inside and outside the Icehotel on the night you stayed there.
VISIT THE VIENNA MARKETS FOR AN EARLY TASTE OF CHRISTMAS
With the smell of glühwein and the sound of carol singing in the air, the Viennese Christmas markets are a wonderful way to spend a frosty weekend – the concerts, nativity displays and traditional Christmas markets are festive enough to convert even the hardest-hearted Scrooge. Dating back as far as the Middle Ages, it’s no surprise these markets have a distinctly traditional feel about them.
Within the city there are Christkindlmarkts around every corner, offering a myriad of trinkets, decorations and snow globes (which were first patented here). An evening visit is particularly pretty when the trees are lit up and you can wander around the stalls while you snack on hot chestnuts, sausages and candy apples.
What’s so lovely is that everything in central Vienna is within walking distance so it’s easy to wander from sight to sight, market to market, without ever getting too chilly. And, if you do feel Jack Frost nipping at your nose, you can shoo him away by popping into one of the many traditional coffee houses or bars to keep warm, and stock up on creamy chocolate, hot fruit punch and, of course, cake.
BE A CULTURE VULTURE IN ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA
Many say this Russian city is at its most beautiful in the winter, with snow on the canals and the gilded domes glittering with ice – even better, there’s not a mosquito in sight. There’s a lot to see and do in St Petersburg and a guided cultural tour is a good way to fit everything in.
Our pick includes a four-night cultural trip with Kirker Travel, hosted by Tatiana Shugla, an expert on Russian history who lives in St Petersburg. The itinerary includes visits to the Peter and Paul Fortress, the Church of the Spilled Blood, the Russian Museum and St Isaac’s Cathedral, a full day in The Hermitage, a trip to three of St Petersburg’s imperial summer residences – the Catherine, Pavlovsk and Alexander Palaces – and a visit to the Fabergé Museum housed in the Shuvalov Palace. What’s more, you’ll also have the opportunity to catch a ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre.
The trip costs £1,498 per person based on two sharing and includes B&B at the five-star Hotel Astoria, private transfers, four dinners, one lunch, Russian visa service, excursions, tour leader and BA flights (Heathrow). Departs 26 November and 23 December 2015, 25 February and 24 March 2016.
JOURNEY INSIDE AN ICELANDIC GLACIER
Iceland has been popular for years for winter breaks, with many visitors basing themselves in Reykjavik and taking day trips to sights such as the Blue Lagoon and the Strokkur geyser. This year there’s a huge new attraction to draw the crowds – ‘Into The Glacier’ is an ice tunnel and caves carved into the huge Langjokull glacier.
Huge, purpose-built eight-wheel-drive trucks deliver visitors up to the mouth of the glacial tunnels. At 200-meters long, this man-made series of five ice chambers, interconnected through a series of tunnels lit up with LED lights, is the largest of its kind in Europe. As you move further down into the tunnels, you will notice how the ice walls change in colour, going from pearly white to a deep and clear blue. As well as being staggeringly beautiful, it’s a wonderful way to learn more about the effects of climate change from guides who are experts in both geology and glaciology.
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